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Special Education

About Special Education

The Education Act of Ontario states that ALL exceptional children are entitled to appropriate special education programs and services. Programs refer to those educational plans proven effective in teaching students with learning disabilities. The onus is on the teachers to teach and the Board to provide access. Students with LD can learn when taught appropriately. Services refer to those accommodations in the classroom that enable the student to compete on a level playing field with their non-LD classmates such as longer test times, supplied notes, calculators or computers. Discrimination against people with learning disabilities is a violation of the Human Rights Code of Canada. Employers and service providers are obligated by the Code to accommodate people with learning disabilities unless they can show that such accommodations would place undue hardship on their businesses.

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The Education Act requires that school boards provide, or purchase from another school board, special education programs and services for “exceptional” students. Exceptional students are defined as those whose “behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical, or multiple exceptionalities are such that they are considered to need placement in a special education program”. The role of the IPRC is to: decide whether or not your child should be identified as exceptional; identify the areas of your child’s exceptionality; decide an appropriate placement; and review the identification and placement at least once each school year. To start an IPRC, you must contact your child’s principal, in writing, and request that your child be referred to an IPRC. Your child’s principal may also make the referral on his or her own initiative. Within 15 days of making the referral, the principal must send you written notification, including an approximate date of the IPRC meeting and a parent’s guide containing information about the IPRC. The principal may also ask you for permission to obtain a psychological or health assessment of your child. While an educational assessment will also be performed, parental permission is not required for this. At least 10 days before the IPRC is to meet, you (and your child, if 16 or over) will receive written notice of the meeting and an invitation to attend. This letter will list the date, time, and place of the meeting, and will ask you to indicate if you can attend. Before the IPRC meets, you will also receive a copy of all information that the chair of the IPRC has received. If you can’t attend this meeting, contact the school principal immediately to arrange an alternative date or to let the principal know that you will not be attending. If, however, you cannot attend, the IPRC’s written decision will be sent to you. Either you or your child’s principal may make a request for others to attend the IPRC meeting. As well, you are entitled to have a representative or advocate who may speak on your behalf.

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The Individual Education Plan, commonly known as the IEP, is the school’s written plan of action for the special education student. According to the Ministry of Education and Training, the IEP “is a working document which describes the strengths and needs of an individual exceptional pupil, the special education program and services established to meet the pupil’s needs, and how the program and services will be delivered. It also describes the student’s progress”. The IEP does not define: everything that will be taught to the student; an educational program or set of expectations for all students; a means to monitor the effectiveness of teachers; or a daily plan. An IEP must be prepared for all special education students, and a copy of this document must be provided to the parents (and the student, if 16 or over). With the recent changes to the Special Education Act, IEPs may now be prepared without the prerequisite of an IPRC; and schools are suggesting that parents of special needs students take this route. While there is a clear benefit in avoiding the delay of waiting for an IPRC meeting, it is important to note that the IEP is not binding without the IPRC. Despite the best efforts and intentions of your child’s school, the written decision of the IPRC is the only guarantee that your child will receive the services he or she requires. Therefore, while there is no harm in starting to develop an IEP prior to the IPRC, it is inadvisable to forgo the IPRC process.


Please address questions to [email protected].

Learning Disabilities Association of Toronto